As this weekend I have been reflecting on time in SCBU and what it means having an ex-prem baby, I am looking at "Lyra and the Flying Fish" written by Peter Emina and illustrated by Alice Ridley.
"It's a strange and dangerous world out there...
Lyra and White Rabbit were together from the very first moment. As the second moment arrived, Rabbit lay there with his head next to hers. He could feel her tiny breaths passing along the plastic tube the doctors had fitted to help Lyra's not quite ready lungs puff, pant & gasp. He listened to the air as it tickled his big furry ears.....
Peacefully floating on the surface of life, Lyra is very good at ignoring everything. But when her beloved Rabbit is taken away by an unschooled whooshing jumble of flying fish, Lyra finds herself caught up in an amazing watery adventure below the surface of the ocean. With the help of her new friend Timothy the turtle, she bravely vows to find White Rabbit at all costs.
Journey beyond the incubator and into the imagination with this highly original and beautifully illustrated tale of a premature baby."
This book was written and illustrated by a couple based on their niece who was born prematurely at 24+5. Lyra needed CPAP to help her breathe, which her mum (Alice Ridley's sister) would refer to as her 'snorkel'. This kick-started their idea for an underwater adventure to communicate not just a different and gentle description of life as premature infant, but also to inspire hope about getting through: an essential ingredient that anyone who has had experience of prematurity will know. Premature babies find touch and movement very distressing which will interfere with their wellbeing, so for long periods are in their incubators with a comforter. Of course their parents are never far away (most likely, say right next to them!) but the physical barrier can sometimes seem very overwhelming.
This story touched me deeply as the mother of a premature baby born at 27+6 requiring breathing support. There is an intense side to the experience which is very tough to communicate, but this book very gently and imaginatively put the words down in a way that is not scary or upsetting. It is both whimsical, gentle and magical whilst clearly showing the fierce determination of Lyra and the friendship and comfort she gets from White Rabbit. I initially bought it as a way of explaining to my daughter about her start in life when she grows older, but upon reading it over and over again value it as much for the story which is a brilliant tale of adventure and friendship even if you have no experience of a premature baby. The illustrations are beautiful and really bring it to life. It slightly reminds me of the concept of Alice in Wonderland, but if she had a friend to go with her down the rabbit hole!